Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Eucharist and Annoying Christian Habits (mutually exclusive topics)

You don't really have any idea how much you're putting yourself on the line until you open yourself to criticism about your own faith. Blogging about religion is scary. It is the second-to-final frontier on my blog (because I still refuse to write about politics). As always, my aim is not to convert or convince. I'm here to share: feel free to stop reading anytime.

As I continue to learn about Christianity both inside the church and as an outsider looking in, a few topics keep coming up in the back of my mind. I'd like to take this post as an opportunity to discuss two of them: The Eucharist and my most recent Christian observations.

I've been attending a Catholic church for a few months. This experience challenges me to see past the misgivings of protestantism, forces me to admit flaws in my faith, and brings a quiet peace. I adore the music, and I'm finally starting to remember the order of mass each week. The point of mass, however, is the Eucharist. Because I haven't been baptized as a Catholic (or anything else), I am not allowed to share in the body and blood of Christ. If the point of mass is to share in the Eucharist, and I'm not allowed to do so, going seems to be a bit of a chore, right? When everyone else goes forward to participate, I remain seated. Sure, I could walk forward and be blessed by the priest, but the fact remains that I'm still an outsider. Part of me desires to share in communion, and part of me remains true to my protestant roots that anyone who believes ought to be able to partake in the bread and wine. I don't know how to reconcile these thoughts in my head or heart. I fully respect the Catholic tradition in the sacrament of the Eucharist. The church holds it as the most important sacrament--I'm not about to argue. I believe in the mystery of transubstantiation (Jesus didn't say, "This is a symbol..."), and I understand how much the Eucharist means. I'm not sure what to do or what to think beyond that...

~insert elegant transition here~

Believing in a scientific approach to observation (objective, with questions and hypothesis), I've had the opportunity to experience Christians as both an insider and an outsider. Though I am a Christian, I am not a formally baptized one. Therefore, I am accepted by some and rejected by others. One might think, however, that Christians ought to be accepting of all people. I haven't found this to be true... ever. My observations have led me to conclude that the more someone goes to church and believes in abhorring anything different that who they are or what they believe, the more likely they are to not see the good in someone or something. These people become so wrapped up in making a point about their own holiness that they miss celebrating life with everyone. They'll offer up, "It's such a beautiful day. I took time to smell the roses!" but wouldn't dare say, "It's such a beautiful day. My male friends were civilly joined and are beginning their lives together!" The tragedy is not that two guys can share insurance cards now (it's just an example, one out of many), but that some people are so narrow-minded that they believe their church and what they think has the right to govern the lives of others. Another example would be modes of dress, and yet another would be what people consider "appropriate" movie content. These limiting Christians are missing such beautiful, compelling, often Christian-themed storylines simply because of one swear word or one kiss or one faked death. My sample size is limited to people in my area, though, so it's possible that I happen to live in a narrow-minded suburb of the world at large (not unlikely, actually).

Before you believe I'm trying to elevate myself by saying I'm 100% accepting and perfect, please let me admit that I have my own deep faults. My growth as a Christian and human is my own plight. I don't know how I'm going to reconcile my differing viewpoints about communion, but I have faith that an answer will come to me. I don't know how to help people become more accepting and respectful--if that is even my battle to fight. I don't have it all figured out.

I'm not sure I have any of it figured out. The journey continues...

1 comment:

Ian Oberst said...

Excellent transition!

You're second "topic" definitely opens an interesting can of worms. People are judgmental, as a rule, and I very much doubt that Christians are any better as a group than any other set of people. I think what does set them apart is the fact that they tend to be rather opinionated, which merits them a fair amount of attention.

From my experience (and, yes, I'll admit I can be very judgmental at times), it seems like it is often very difficult to find the line between loving people without condoning actions that are "sinful," whether your criteria is God's or your own. As it is much easier not to put forth the effort to discover this balance, the default reaction to situations is "judge and avoid," or at least something similar. This is a very tempting and easy pattern to fall into, but one that falls very short of the example Christ set for us.

That it mind, I think I owe you an apology for being far to judgmental and critical in many instances. It certainly is poor of me to allow my own discomfort with situations drive me from acting in a manner which honors the examples Christ set.